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Publication Account

Date 2007

Event ID 587629

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


NX25 1 STAIRHAVEN (‘Broken Castle’, ‘Crow’s Neith’)

NX/2090 5335

This probable broch in Old Luce stands on a rocky spur about 9.2m (30 ft) above the sea. Across the ridge, immediately in front of this structure, there appears to have been a ditch 4.3m (14 ft) wide. In 1911 there was little to be seen at the site [3] but since then “continuing excavation by local residents” [1, reported in 1977] has exposed a number of architectural features. The site is extremely difficult to reach now, particularly along the shore which is crossed by rocky ridges; the approach from above involves a steep climb down.

The entrance, facing west-north-west towards the sea, is now exposed and indicates a wall thickness here of 3.81m (12.5 ft). An earlier report said that no door-frame was apparent [1] but the broken off slab for the right hand check is in position, 1.2 - 1.3m from the exterior; no left check can be seen at present. However this side of the passage has been extended inwards and the primary masonry is doubtless preserved behind this added face.

There are clear signs that part of the inner wallface is well preserved and may still stand up to 3m high at about 9 o’clock; thus if the building really is a broch a scarcement may be preserved under rubble here. The top of the inner face at this point appears to be about 3m above the present floor of the entrance (the author did not have his indian clinometer with him) and about level with the top step of the intra-mural stair nearby (eleven steps are now visible). Although the building seems to stand on a rocky surface that slopes downwards towards the sea this still suggests that the inner wall at 9-10 o’clock (on the uphill side) stands at least 2.14 - 3.05m (7 - 10 ft) above the broch floor. How much longer the wall will stand without conservation is unclear.

The doorway to the stair is exposed at 7 o’clock and later drystone masonry has been added here also. The extra block against the inner wallface (which extends the passage side inwards) has already been mentioned but there is also a block added against the outer face of the short passage leading to the stair. The photograph also shows how three steps of a stair going in the opposite direction – that is, rising up to cross the entrance (presumably at a time when it was still roofed with lintels) – are bonded into this secondary walling. How old these later additions to the structure are is unclear; if ancient they suggest that the broch was partly demolished before they were put in.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NX 25 SW 9: 2. Wilson 1899, 176: 3. RCAHMS 1912, 114, no. 310: 4. Finlayson and Cressey 2003, 129.

E W MacKie 2007

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